Babies who were born during the first year of the pandemic scored lower on a developmental screening test than those born just before it, according to a new study published by scientists at Columbia University.
“We were surprised to find absolutely no signal suggesting that exposure to COVID while in utero was linked to neurodevelopmental deficits,” said Dr. Dani Dumitriu, an assistant professor of paediatrics at Columbia.
“Rather, being in the womb of a mother experiencing the pandemic was associated with slightly lower scores in areas such as motor and social skills, though not in others, such as communication or problem-solving skills,” Dumitriu explained.
“The results suggest that the huge amount of stress felt by pregnant mothers during these unprecedented times may have played a role.”
Although the babies born during this period only scored slightly lower than their peers, the researchers warn that even small shifts can have significant public health impacts when considered at a population level.